10 years with the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

The tension is always palpable when the members of the ALMA jury assemble for their final meeting of the year to decide who should receive the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world’s largest award for children’s and young adult literature. After making our decision, we have to get in touch with the recipient or recipients. I remember calling the first recipient to give her the good news. Did we have the right number? Would she be home? Did she have any idea what the award was and what it represented? In fact, my conversation with Austrian author Christine Nöstlinger went very well, apart from some initial confusion when her husband, who answered the phone, thought I was calling from a taxi firm. Now, 10 years later, we can look back on an eventful decade.

Over the course of these 10 years, the jury has worked tirelessly to choose worthy recipients of the award. We have read, discussed, dissected, argued, asked questions, obtained information, visited people and organisations, and eventually reached agreement on recipients whose work or activities we felt met the highest artistic standards. I am very proud to say that the jury has never been predictable or politically correct. Our criteria have been that the recipients’ work or activities should meet the highest standards of quality, always treat children with respect and embody the humanistic spirit of Astrid Lindgren.

Being a member of the ALMA jury is a fantastic privilege. We have been called upon to consider the work of illustrators, storytellers, authors and reading promotors from all parts of the world. Many of them are already well known, but many others remain unknown. I cannot overemphasise the importance of the nomination bodies. The award office is in contact with over 400 nomination bodies around the world, through which the jury becomes aware of the enormous wealth of literature that exists globally. They keep us informed of what people are writing and what people are reading, acting as our eyes and ears in children’s libraries around the world. I am convinced that books build bridges and that children’s literature has the power to boost mutual understanding and exchanges between cultures and individuals. The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award aids this bridge-building and helps children’s and young adults’ literature increase its international reach.

Larry Lempert
Chairman of the Jury